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SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (25): Jesus – Conflict with the Jews

With the post-exile Jews and their traditions having such a focus on the external observances of the Law plus the traditions and Jesus’ focus on the heart, conflict was inevitable. The same thing happens today when one group in the Church focuses on grace while another group’s emphasis is on observance of the letter of the law. One group looks at the other as lawless libertines while the second group thinks the first group is legalistic.

It did not take long for the conflict between Jesus and the Jews to begin. Over the course of His ministry, it grew from questionings in the hearts of the watch-dog committee to an angry mob shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” of Jesus as they demanded that Pilate release a convicted murderer instead.

Early Conflict in Galilee

(17) as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.

(18)  And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus,

(19)  but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

(20)  And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

(21)  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

(22)  When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?

(23)  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?

(24)  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

(25)  And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.

(26)  And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” – Luke 5:17-26

The leaders of the Jews had come from all over to check out this new teacher. When they heard Him speak of forgiving a man’s sins, they with one accord thought within themselves, “Why is this man blaspheming like this, since no one can forgive sins but God alone!”
Jesus silenced them at that time by healing the cripple to show He had authority to forgive sins.
It was not long, though, before they began to pick at Him, first through His disciples and later more directly.
After Jesus called Levi, the tax collector who is also called Matthew, Levi had a banquet for Jesus in his home to which he invited what the Pharisees deemed unworthy “tax collectors and sinners.” The Jewish leaders asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard of it, He said,
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Luke 5:31-32
It did not let up. They asked Jesus why He and His disciples did not “fast” while they themselves and even John the Baptist’s disciples “fast often.” Note that “fasting” as such is not commanded in the Law except for the Day of Atonement. There were times of national mourning when people would fast, but not as a regular thing. During the inter-testament period the Pharisees began the practice of regular fasting. It was not wrong to fast – but it was wrong to trust in their fasting to make them close to God. Jesus’ reply was that His disciples would fast when He would be taken away from them. He also added that you must put new wine into new wine skins and that no one would patch an old garment with new cloth. In these replies, Jesus was saying that His relationship with His disciples was different from anything they had seen in the past – and that He had come to introduce something new (Luke 5:33-39).
Quickly they attacked Him because His disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath – and He himself healed on the Sabbath. One instance of the latter was when He met a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders “watched Him closely” to see if He would heal the man on the Sabbath. Jesus asked the man to stand and then challenged the Jews: “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” Then He told the man to stretch out his hand. When he did, it was whole. At this, the Jews were “filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:1-11). Mark’s account says the Pharisees went out and plotted with the Herodians how they might destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6).
Conflict in Jerusalem

Similar conflict took place in Jerusalem. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, recognized Jesus as a teacher come from God, “for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2). Yet, when He healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, who had his infirmity for 38 years, the Jerusalem Jewish leaders were enraged that He had done this on the Sabbath day (John 5:1-16). They also tried to find a way to kill Him. Jesus said to them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). At this, they tried even more to kill Him, “because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

When He again went to Jerusalem, there was still seething resentment by the Jewish leaders against Him for this. See John 7:19-23 for how He accused them also of not keeping the Sabbath because the circumcised on that day. He said all of you do that – and I made a man completely well on the Sabbath, so why are you angry with me?

These are not the only times Jesus’ Sabbath activities drew the ire of the Jewish leaders. Nor was it just what He did on the Sabbath that irritated them. As a result, they dogged His steps, harassing Him frequently.

Just after He fed the 4,000 they came to Him demanding a “sign from heaven.” Of course, He had given many signs. After one of these, early in His ministry, they claimed He cast out demons by the power of the Devil (see Mark 3:22-30). This was some of “the scribes who came down from Jerusalem,” presumably to examine Him, His activity, and His teaching. When He healed a blind man in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, the Jews there threw the man healed out of the synagogue when he insisted Jesus was a prophet – while they had declared he could not be from God. Their reason? He was a sinner because the healing was on the Sabbath. See John 9 for the story.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44), the hatred of the Jews grew even stronger.

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both out place and nation.” And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish….

Then from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. – John 11:47-50, 53

Because of these plots, Jesus had been in hiding beyond the Jordan. Not long before the fateful Passover when He died on the cross, He came back to Bethany, just 2 miles from Jerusalem. People came to see Him – and to see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:10-11).

The conflict had reached a boiling point. When Jesus went into Jerusalem, He stirred the pot even more because His hour had come.


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